Wednesday, 15 September 2010

ehealth as oxymoron - technology induced mind change a top threat for humanity. Hyperbole perhaps, in comparing the threat to that posed by climate change, but Susan Greenfield is doing what she does best and getting her research agenda noticed. In doing so she raises questions for public policy and health promotion about the use of digital channels.

If her concerns turn out to be well founded then the emphasis of public policy on personal responsibility for health, achieved in part through the use of ICTs to gather information, may even contribute to the problem if as she postulates: ‘using internet search engines to find facts… [affects] people's ability to learn’.

There are more specific examples of health services deploying novel strategies to reach audiences over digital channels, such as NHS Direct’s presence on Habbo Hotel. I’m not saying that such a presence encourages social networking (another area of concern for neuroscientists) per se: After all health promotion is about reaching audiences wherever they are. However if Greenfield and others are right, the possibility of damaging “mind change” would have to be borne in mind when public policy and health promotion initiatives concern digital channels or they risk unintentionally contributing to the fall of humanity...

Courtesy of 'fearmyrobotbrain' blog

P.S. Leaving "hard science" aside, Susan Greenfield will no doubt be relieved to know that social scientists have been investigating the broader social and cultural implications of digital technology for a while now even if our conclusions are more equivocal than she might like. 

One of my favourite of many examples is Danah Boyd's PhD on teen sociality. It deploys structural analysis to look at how the networked public in general, or the particular 'participation architectures' of sites such as Facebook, structure peer relations. I.e. how technology may replicate, reinforce, or alter the practices of peer relations. In a very unapocalyptic fashion she finds that teens primarily use social network sites in ways that reinforce and replicate unmediated social dynamics.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

We are all cyborgs now: A pill that reminds you about your next dose Is this ‘Endocolonisation’ in action? Paul Virilio would not be a fan.

His concept describes how the human body is increasingly becoming a site of technology which implies: “an emptying out, a deterritorialisation, conducted in conjunction with a technoscientific reterritorialisation which disrupts and fractalises human and social totalities, which Virilio insists should remain whole,” - see - here endocolonisation is adopted as a concept by a ‘cyborg anthropology’ scholar.

Medicine formed one of the first areas of study for cyborg anthropology, which considered subjects such as reproductive technology and genetics. More recently issues such as privacy, identity and connectivity have come to the fore in connection with other technologies that blur the boundaries between machine and human. Endocolonisation by microchips links this more recent work to medicine once again.

This presentation by Amber Case is a good summary of the kinds of issues cyborg anthropologists are considering now: